YouTube is trying to make AI music deals with major record labels

YouTube is expecting to launch new AI tools later this year that are trained off the back of these deals. | Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

After debuting a generative AI feature last year that produces music in the style of famous artists like Charli XCX, John Legend, and T-Pain, YouTube is now asking major record labels to allow it to clone more musicians. According to the Financial Times, the Google-owned video platform is offering to pay Universal Music Group (UMG), Sony Music Entertainment, and Warner Records “lump sums of cash” in exchange for licensing their songs to legally train its AI music tools.
YouTube told the Financial Times that it’s not looking to expand Dream Track — which was supported by just ten artists during its test phase — but confirmed it was “in conversations with labels about other experiments.” The platform is aiming to license music from “dozens” of artists according to the report, which will instead be used to train new AI tools that YouTube is planning to launch later this year. The fee that YouTube is willing to pay for these licenses hasn’t been disclosed, but the report says these will likely be one-off payments rather than royalty-based arrangements.

Regardless, both artists and the labels that represent them will likely take some convincing. Sony Music has extensively warned AI companies against “unauthorized use” of its content, and UMG was willing to temporarily pull its entire music catalog from TikTok after inadequate protections against AI-generated music caused licensing negotiations to fall apart. Back in January, over 200 artists — including Billie Eilish, Pearl Jam, and Katy Perry — also called for tech companies to cease using AI to “infringe upon and devalue the rights of human artists.”
News of these discussions comes just days after the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), representing record labels like Sony, Warner, and Universal, filed separate copyright infringement lawsuits against two of the top companies in generative AI music. The labels allege that outputs from Suno and Udio were produced using “unlicensed copying of sound recordings on a massive scale,” with the RIAA seeking damages of up to $150,000 per infringement.